Listed Building: MANSFIELD ROAD BRIDGE (SPC8 6) (1417666)

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Grade II
Authority English Heritage
Date assigned Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Date last amended


SUMMARY OF BUILDING A three-span stone overbridge carrying the Mansfield Road, built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick. REASONS FOR DESIGNATION Mansfield Road Bridge, constructed in 1836-40, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Date: an early example of a railway structure dating from the pioneering phase in national railway development; * Intactness: as a remarkably unaltered bridge that is well preserved; * Historic interest: as a bridge that forms part of the North Midland Railway, which was designed by George and Robert Stephenson, among the greatest and most influential of all railway engineers, with their assistant Frederick Swanwick; * Architectural interest: as an example of the consistently high quality design and careful detailing of railway structures completed for the North Midland Railway. The aesthetic quality of the bridge far exceeds the functional and structural requirements of bridge design; * Engineering interest: as a bridge that has been engineered both to accommodate the local drainage conditions and more widely as a response to the picturesque river valley in which it was constructed. HISTORY The Midland Main Line is the outcome of a number of historic construction phases undertaken by different railway companies. The first two phases were carried out simultaneously between 1836 and 1840 by the North Midland Railway and the Midland Counties Railway. The North Midland Railway, which operated between Derby and Chesterfield and onwards to Rotherham and Leeds, was pre-eminently the work of George (1781-1848) and Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) who, along with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, are the most renowned engineers of this pioneering phase of railway development. They worked closely with the Assistant Engineer, Frederick Swanwick (1810-1885). The railway’s architect Francis Thompson (1808-1895) designed stations and other railway buildings along the line. The less demanding route for the Midland Counties Railway, which ran between Derby and Nottingham to Leicester and on to Rugby, was surveyed by Charles Blacker Vignoles (1793-1875) who was engineer to a large number of railway projects. These two companies (along with the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway) did not yield the expected profits, partly because of the fierce competition between them. This led to the three companies merging into the Midland Railway in 1844 which constituted the first large scale railway amalgamation. The next part of the line from Leicester to Bedford and on to Hitchin was constructed between 1853 and 1857 by the engineer Charles Liddell (c.1813-1894) and specialist railway architect Charles Henry Driver (1832-1900). In 1862 the decision was made to extend the line from Bedford to London which was again the responsibility of Liddell, except for the final fourteen miles into London and the design of the terminus at St Pancras (listed at Grade I) which was undertaken by William Barlow (1812-1902). Additional routes were then added from Chesterfield to Sheffield in 1870, and from Kettering to Corby in 1879. The most important changes to the infrastructure of the Midland Railway were the rebuilding of its principal stations and the increasing of the line’s capacity, involving the quadrupling of some stretches of the route south of the Trent from the early 1870s to the 1890s. Mansfield Road Bridge was built between 1836 and 1840 as part of the North Midland Railway. The route from Derby to Chesterfield and onwards to Rotherham and Leeds was surveyed by George Stephenson in 1835, and the Act of Parliament for the construction of the 72 mile line was obtained in 1836. Linked at Derby to the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway and the Midland Counties Railway, it was to form part of a route from London to Yorkshire and the North East. George Stephenson was joined by his son Robert as joint Chief Engineer on the project in 1837. In order to concentrate on his mineral and mining interests, George relinquished his railway projects in 1839 so it was his son who saw the North Midland through to its completion in 1840. Part of Robert Stephenson’s skill in handling railway projects was his ability to select and manage an able team, and he entrusted much of the engineering design of the North Midland to Frederick Swanwick whose name appears on the surviving contract drawings. The Stephensons, supported by Swanwick, designed the line north from Derby to have gradients no greater than 1 in 250 to suit the low power of contemporary steam locomotives, which meant relegating Sheffield to a link line. To achieve such gradients the line followed the River Derwent as far as Ambergate and then ran through more difficult territory up the valley of the River Amber via Wingfield and Clay Cross to Chesterfield, then over to Rotherham and via Wakefield to Leeds. The notable sequence of picturesque stations along the line was designed by Francis Thompson who was therefore also influential in setting his stamp on the character of the line. Mansfield Road Bridge is one of an extended sequence of surviving bridges built for the North Midland Railway between Derby and Chesterfield. The bridge is typical of those designed for the Railway by George and Robert Stephenson, with their Assistant Engineer, Frederick Swanwick and shares many characteristics with others along the route. It is a three-span bridge; the centre arch originally spanned the railway line and the two outer arches spanned drainage channels. The drainage channels were infilled in 1891 to accommodate additional tracks. Mansfield Road Bridge was constructed under the contract for Derby, which was won by Messrs. Nowell with a tender of £19,000. DETAILS A three-span stone overbridge carrying the Mansfield Road, built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, and altered in 1891. MATERIALS: coursed and squared Coal Measure sandstone with ashlar Derbyshire Gritstone dressings. The dressings are tooled. The soffits of the arches are of red brick. DESCRIPTION: the high-mileage (north) face is a mirror image of the low-mileage (south) face. The central arch conforms to the standard dimensions of the Stephensons’ North Midland overbridges, with a span of 30ft and, originally, a height of 16ft. The outer arches span 25ft. All three are segmental arches with v-channelled, rusticated ashlar voussoirs springing from impost bands that continue onto the underside of the bridge. Beneath the impost bands the abutments are faced with coursed and squared quarry-faced stone, with rusticated ashlar quoins and plinths. The arch soffits are of red brick. Flanking the three arches, the splayed wing walls step out and are raked and concave with quoins, terminating in piers. The v-channelled and rusticated parapet builds up from a cornice composed of a narrow ashlar course, a bold roll mould, then a course of ashlar with a chamfered upper edge, all of which are tooled. Above are two large courses of picked stone with tooled margins. The coping stones are broad, tooled and square-moulded, with a slight fall to the outside edge. On their inside faces the parapets are two and half courses with punched surfaces. A loose stone wall has been built up against the pier and abutment on the down (west) side. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the tarmacadam road surface of the bridge is not of special architectural or historic interest. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Biddle, G - Title: Britain’s Historic Railway Buildings - Date: 2003 Book Reference - Author: Bailey, M - Title: Robert Stephenson - the Eminent Engineer - Date: 2003 Book Reference - Author: Williams, F S - Title: The Midland Railway: its rise and progress - Date: 1886 Book Reference - Title: The North Midland Railway Guide - Date: 1842 Unpublished Title Reference - Author: Alan Baxter & Associates - Title: Midland Main Line Statement of History and Significance - Date: 2013 - Source: ABA Article Reference - Author: Carter, O F - Title: Francis Thompson 1908-95 - an architectural mystery solved - Date: April 1995 - Journal Title: Back Track vol 9 Other Reference - Description: Network Rail National Records Centre, barcode number: 00059512 Other Reference - Description: Network Rail National Records Centre, barcode number: 00059519 National Grid Reference: SK3581437582

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Grid reference SK 35814 37582 (point)
Map sheet SK33NE

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Feb 14 2014 3:07PM

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